The White House has given NASA a New Year’s Eve “go” to continue its operations aboard the International Space Station until 2030, granting the orbital outpost an extension of the lifespan of six years.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has been tasked by the Biden-Harris administration to work with agency partners including the European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency, Japan Agency Aerospace Exploration (JAXA) and the Russian Federal Space Company Roscosmos, to enable International Use of the Space Station for the remainder of this decade.
“I am delighted that the Biden-Harris administration has made a commitment to continue the station’s operations until 2030,” Nelson said in a statement posted on the NASA website Friday, Dec.31. “The International Space Station is a beacon of peaceful international scientific collaboration and, for more than 20 years, has enabled tremendous scientific, educational and technological developments for the benefit of humanity.”
Related: Construction of the International Space Station (photos)
Funded earlier for use through 2024, NASA has been looking for ways to shift its day-to-day space station operations to commercial entities in order to free up funds for its Artemis crewed lunar exploration program.
“The continued United States participation in the ISS will enhance innovation and competitiveness, as well as advance the research and technology needed to send the first woman and the first person of color to the moon under the Artemis program from NASA and will pave the way for sending the first humans to Mars, ”Nelson said.
The extension will also provide more time to ensure a smooth transfer of low Earth orbit research and commercial activities from the International Space Station to new private outposts. NASA recently made deals with companies to develop commercial space stations either as free-flight platforms or, as in one case, as a temporary extension of the International Space Station before going their separate ways.
Established in 1998, the International Space Station has been home to a continuous series of expedition crews for more than 21 years. As a microgravity laboratory, the station has hosted more than 3,000 research studies carried out by more than 4,200 researchers from around the world. Almost 110 countries and territories have participated in activities aboard the space station, including more than 1.5 million students per year in awareness activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
ESA has already expressed support for expanding operations until 2030, and JAXA has certified that its Kibo lab and associated components are capable of supporting activities until then. Roscosmos proposed to leave the partnership in 2025 in favor of deploying its own space station but at the same time recently attached a new multipurpose laboratory module (“Nauka”) and a new docking port (“Prichal”) to its segment of the International Space Station.
Then there are the growing tensions between the United States and Russia over more terrestrial issues, although the space station partnership has survived similar past challenges.
Prior to the White House leadership, Congress considered legislation to continue the use of the space station until 2030. Bills introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate garnered bipartisan support but failed did not get a vote.
“As more nations are active in space, it is more important than ever that the United States continue to lead the world in developing international alliances and modeling rules and standards for peaceful use. and responsible for space, ”said Nelson.
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